Jews lived in Moslem Yemen for centuries. No one knows how they came to be there. Some speculate they arrived during the reign of King Solomon. Others believe they migrated with Roman troops around the first century.
Cut-off from the rest of the Jewish world, relentlessly persecuted – forbidden to work or even to walk on the same side of the street as Moslems – they nevertheless remained faithful to the Bible which they used to educate their children.
In 1911, a European Jew, Schmuel Yavnielli (Warshanksy), began to systematically visit pockets of ‘lost’ Jews in various countries. He told them that soon Jews all over the world would return to Zion. The Yemeni Jews believed. Some set off immediately for Israel (then Palestine). But, it wasn’t until 1948, when Israel was re-established as a nation, that many groups of 30 or 40 set out on foot for the ‘promised land.’ They suffered attacks from Muslim thieves but, like the children of Israel travelling from Egypt to the promised land, they kept moving.
When these travelling bands of Yeminis reached Aden, they rested at a camp set up for them by Israeli officials. Ministered to by Jewish doctors, nurses and social workers, they regained strength, all the while reading their treasured Bibles. Egypt had closed the Suez Canal to Israeli ships. The only way from Aden to Israel was by air.
Each day, five to six hundred Yemeni Jews were flown to Israel packed into giant converted transport planes that flew them along the ancient Red Sea route in what became known as Operation Magic Carpet. This airlift went on through 1949 and 1950. By the time it ended, 48,000 Yemeni Jews were flown to Israel.
In her autobiography, My Life, Golda Meir writes:
Sometimes I used to go to Lydda and watch the planes from Aden touch down, marvelling at the endurance and faith of their exhausted passengers. ‘Had you ever seen a plane before?’ I asked one bearded old man. ‘No,’ he answered. ‘But weren’t you afraid of flying?’ I persisted. ‘No,’ he said again very firmly. ‘It is all written in the Bible. In Isaiah. “They shall mount up with wings as eagles.’ And standing there on the tarmac he recited the entire passage to me, his face lit with the joy of fulfilled prophecy.
As followers of Jesus, we live in this world as ‘strangers and pilgrims’ – like the Jews of Yemen. Jesus said, ‘When everything is ready I will come and get you so that you will always be with me where I am. (John 14:3)
As surely as God’s promise to make Israel a nation again was fulfilled, His promise to take us to live with Him forever will also be fulfilled.
The Yemeni Jews remained faithful to God in spite of severe persecution. We must also be faithful to our Lord until He comes again. What an airlift that will be when all of Christ’s faithful followers will come with songs of praise, dancing and jubilation into His eternal Kingdom.
Amid sufferings, remember:
He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:29-31